About the only surprise of this year’s Wimbledon men’s event was there were no real surprises. The young stars continue to run hot and cold, the middle generation is still lost which leaves the Big 3 pack with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. And since Andy Murray is off the singles circuit for now and there’s, by definition, a fourth spot in a semifinal, Roberto Bautista Agut gets the last slot. Otherwise, the first 10 days of these events are effectively meaningless.
So, what is going to happen? To the matches and my picks.
Novak Djokovic v Roberto Bautista Agut
With two wins already over Novak Djokovic this year, you know the Serb will have his guard up against Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard has quietly been a very decent grass court player through his carer. The slick surface really takes to his low bouncing flat shots. He’s fit and quick, has a solid serve and has that belief with those wins over Novak.
But Djokovic is the man of experience at this stage. Bautista Agut is in his first Grand Slam semifinal while Djokovic is back in his 36th and 9th at Wimbledon.
The fact he does have wins over Novak is a huge boon, but will it be enough over best-of-5? That’s a whole different animal, and Bautista Agut is 0-3 against Novak in Slams.
And in this match-up, there is nothing RBA does better than Djokovic. About the only thing that can happen is Djokovic has an off day and falls apart, which you can’t dismiss. I just don’t see it here.
RBA gets a set, gets the crowd involved, but not much more.
The Pick: Djokovic in 4
Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal
I picked these two to get out to the semifinals at the start. And I picked Nadal to beat Federer. After watching them progress, I’m sticking with Rafa.
The courts appear to be playing slow, the roof will be open and with Rafa seemingly in full flight, that should spell trouble for Roger.
Obviously the gameplan for Rafa is simple: Serve well, attack the backhand, force Federer into bad shots.
For Federer: Pound the serve, crack the forehand, attack the net, attack the second serve, and keep points short.
Based on that, Rafa’s plan is his usual routine while Federer is going to have to be hitting very high levels with his serve and forehand because his backhand is going to be under fire.
Both guys are playing really well. Nadal leads 24-15 and had lost five straight to Roger until that French semifinal. And while that’s a totally different match, that win will be a big lift to his confidence against Roger.
Federer now grass is not Rafa’s best surface and he’s had all those puzzling losses to guys like Brown, Rosol, etc., so there’s his hope. But Roger doesn’t have to monster serve, so he’ll have to place his especially well.
So again, on grass it comes down to margins. Rafa has a high margin with his game. Federer’s is very low and I think that catches up to him.
The good news is the weather will be much better Friday than the nasty conditions they played in back in Paris. And that will help Federer and keep things close. But in the end, with the roof open…
The Pick: Nadal in 5
My big takeway from the semifinals it that’s it’s crazy these three are still so dominant. Twelve years after they first made the Wimbledon semifinals together, here they are again…
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